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Birding blasphemies

OK, what I am about to write here could be seen in some quarters as sacrilege, or, in others, a sophisticated and convoluted means of aiming a wrecking ball at my own credibility. I assure anyone who may read this that neither is the case.

In birding circles, while there is an acknowledgement that mistakes can be, and are, made, and that (at least in theory) everyone is always learning, it is also true that it can be a cut-throat world, where honest to goodness errors of judgement can be held against someone, or people go around scared of even offering opinions lest they be proven wrong and this to damage their reputations. Now, reputation is important, to an extent. It's what makes birders go and twitch one's rare bird claims even before seeing documentary evidence or sussing the details out. And I am not advocating that anyone should just decide to throw away a solid reputation out of sheer devilment. But I wonder if it is time that us birders ask the daring question: if prot…

Iberian Chiffchaff in Lancashire

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When I visited Spurn back in May, I recall being told that an Iberian Chiffchaff in Lancashire was still lingering. I was unable to divert to the site before getting a train from Preston on my way back, however, and I soon forgot about this bird, assuming that it had departed. I was woken out of this facile assumption, however, on the morning of Monday 3rd June, when I saw a post on social media linking to a blog post about someone having seen the bird the weekend just gone. At that stage, I had made plans to visit my friend Seán Ronayne in Catalunya for the coming weekend, so I started to peruse train and bus timetables online and see if I could divert on my way to Manchester Airport. As this proved feasible, I made the necessary arrangements, and eagerly got a bus from Lancaster to Pilling early on the morning of 7th June.

The bus passed directly by the amenity area where this Iberian Chiffchaff has been holding territory, and, indeed, within 2 minutes or less of being dropped off, I…

The imitation game

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The concept of mimicry within the vocabulary of certain birds is something that is ingrained within most human beings from a very young age. We've all grown up with talking parrots on film and TV, at least, and, beyond that, those who watch wildlife documentaries will know of a few others, especially the rightly famous footage of a Superb Lyrebird captured by BBC cameras some years ago.

In terms of more 'local' birds for those of us living in Europe, those among us who become birders quickly become familiar with a few breeding birds which are quite adept at copying sounds. Common Starlings, for one thing, regularly include mimicry within their otherwise disjointed songs: given that mynas are starlings, this is hardly too surprising. Marsh Warbler, also, is famous for its mimicry, to the extent that, in areas where this species is scarce to rare and Reed Warblers are common, any mimetic unstreaked Acrocephalus will attract attention. And Marsh Warblers are extremely mimetic,…

Handbook of Western Palearctic Birds: a quick review

In spite of having owned this book for just over a week, it is only in the last day or two that I have engaged in depth with it. First impressions, naturally, are that this is a very impressive and in-depth work, it looks great and the majority of images used range from very good to excellent, as one might expect in this day and age of quality digital cameras. The majority of taxa mentioned in the text are represented by at least one image, though some (including such a familiar bird to me as hibernicus Coal Tit) are merely described. That said, concentrating merely on the 'superficial' (not that I'd describe anything about this book as superficial), it would be possible to be 'blinded with science'.      Despite all the nice images, however, a book such as this stands or falls on the quality of the information contained within. As is to be expected given the authors, ageing and sexing are dealt with thoroughly and authoritatively, complementing Svensson's Ide…

Juvenile and 1st-winter Yellow-legged Gulls: some thoughts

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OK, for want of something topical to post, allow me to present a few images of juvenile and 1st-winter michahellis type Yellow-legged Gulls taken here in Ireland.
Even when greater concentrations of gulls were found at various rubbish tips throughout Ireland, and when Yellow-legged Gulls seemed easier to find as a result, it seemed that both juveniles in late summer/early autumn and 1st-winters remaining to overwinter were unaccountably rare in Ireland compared to other age classes. When one considers that juveniles make up a large proportion of the late summer influx to other north-western European countries, it does seem strange that the same should not be the case here. Now, of course, the low observer numbers in Ireland, and even lower number of dedicated larophiles, can't help the situation, especially as birds of these age classes are more difficult to pick up in the first place than adult types. But those of us who were watching gulls intently rarely seemed to find them eith…

Some studies of Iceland Gulls

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One of the things that brightens up even a quiet winter is the annual arrival, predominantly during January and February, of varying numbers of Iceland Gulls. These birds tend to be quite widespread here in Ireland, with pretty much all coastal counties receiving a few every year, and, while peak counts of these and Glaucous Gulls tend to come from Killybegs in Co. Donegal, we don't do too badly for them down here in Cork either. In recent winters, there have usually been at least two or three birds along the river Lee in Cork city centre, and, as most have been juveniles, most records clearly don't refer to returning birds. Birds can often give good close views in this urban setting, but a juvenile that is currently present at Kyrl's Quay takes the biscuit, being perhaps the most approachable Iceland Gull that I have ever seen, anywhere. 

So, without further ado, here are some of my better Iceland Gull images from this winter and previous years, mainly from Cork city but s…

The boys are back in town

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So, here we are, 2018, many years since I last kept a blog. I'm not sure how long this one will last, either, but here goes anyway.
On editing my dormant Blogger profile, it was amusing to see how much had changed and how much had stayed the same since I wrote the initial blurb. I suppose I was in denial, somewhat, when I said that I was a 'recovering ex(?) nationwide twitcher', as, while that's far from all that I am, I do travel the length and breadth of Ireland if a prospective Irish tick is found. That happens all too rarely these days, though, and I'd get bored very quickly if I was only waiting for the next tick.
Since my last spell of blogging, I have gotten quite into sound recording, which certainly adds another dimension to time spent in the field. I must confess that there is a degree of the listing instinct involved, insomuch as I am acutely aware of which common species I am missing recordings of, or which particular vocalisations of species I have alrea…